Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is the first digital-native generation. Computers, the internet, and smartphones are integral to their day-to-day lives, not the optional features of other generations. Their worldview, colored by a world in turmoil, has fostered a perspective on life and work that significantly differs from their elders.
One in every five workers today is a Zoomer, both in employee and independent professional populations. This ratio will increase in coming years as older workers age out and more young people join the workforce. Some experts forecast a tripling of today’s numbers by 2030, making Gen Z a force to be reckoned with by enterprises that want to engage their skills.
The labor market will see a big wave of change with the continuing influx of Gen Z workers. Will your company be able to ride the wave or get smacked in the face by it? It’s important for leaders to start now to create a workplace that is responsive to Gen Z.
4 Ways to Prepare for a Gen Z-Dominant Workplace
There are ways that managers and co-workers can make productive connections with Gen Zers on a day-to-day level. In addition, enterprise-level changes can be put into play to resonate with this generation of workers. Here are four examples.
1. Rethink established career paths
Assess your career development framework. Is it flexible enough that workers can work with their managers to “mix and match” learning opportunities? Do the independent professionals you engage have the chance to pursue development options? Depending how close or far you are to “yes” to each of these questions, consider what steps you can take to move to a highly flexible career development structure.
2. Foster innovation and entrepreneurial thinking
“Entrepreneurial spirit” is consistently used to describe Gen Zers. Design enterprise programs that foster and reward the innovative and out-of-box thinking that comes naturally to them and can make a big difference to the business. How about creating an in-house open innovation department that allows members of your workforce to submit solutions to enterprise challenges?
3. Walk the talk about work-life balance
Business experts have noted that Gen Z is clear about pursuing a balanced life that allows them to do meaningful work and also have rich personal lives. Some leaders may find it a major challenge to accommodate this goal into the organizational culture, but it is definitely worth the time and resources needed to incorporate an emphasis on work/life goals into programs and management approach.
4. Create a mentor web
Consider a mentorship program that expands beyond one mentor and one mentee and one-way knowledge flow. Establish two-way mentorships where the younger worker contributes their expertise to the older one. Then go beyond that and create mentoring groups that include members from different parts of the company and different areas of expertise. These groups can form a web that dramatically increases the volume and speed of knowledge sharing.
What Works for One Generation…
Shifting the enterprise focus to the youngest generation doesn’t exclude the other generations in your workforce. In fact, the values and interests of Gen Z aren’t exclusive. All four examples offered here will benefit everyone, opening the door to increased morale, motivation, and productivity across the board.